By Andrew Brown
As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today.
The Guards' report - Matthew 28:11-15 (New Living Translation)
And so we come down to earth with a bump!
We go from the boundless joy and hope of the resurrection; we're watching the women disappear over the horizon as they run to tell the disciples that Jesus is alive; and then suddenly, we're in the middle of this grubby little story of backroom meetings, bribery, cover up and misinformation - ok I'll say it - fake news.
The power of the lie has been there since the beginning. We talk about truth and beauty in the same breath and we still hold up the truth as an ideal. Lies used to be the polar opposite. They used to have the power to shock, to bring down public figures in disgrace but it feels in society we've lost that. Now we're more likely to just shrug and say, well that's what we expect isn't it?
Lies at a personal level, when they're told about us, trigger a gut reaction of injustice and anger and shock. They should do the same when they are public lies because lies are an injustice in themselves. They also betray someone's intent to subvert, to misdirect to their advantage and to someone else's disadvantage.
The shock of this story is that the religious leaders of the day, who had been asking for a sign, who had been pressing Jesus to prove who he was, were presented with credible evidence and eyewitnesses of supernatural intervention. However, they not only chose to disbelieve it, but they chose to replace the truth with a lie. They said they loved God, they said they genuinely wanted to test Jesus' authenticity but neither was true: this lie was the culmination of the lies they had been telling themselves and everyone else all along. The truth was they loved power, they loved money, they loved position and not God.
I have questions to ask myself when I read about the religious leaders in the gospels:
Am I always honest with myself?
Am I really seeking God or am I running away from him?
When I read God's word, when I pray, do I want God to speak into my life?
Do I want to change or do I move quickly on hoping that I won't be made to feel too uncomfortable?
Like the religious leaders I am sometimes going through the motions, hoping God doesn't show up and upset what I've got going on.
The truth in this passage is not what the religious leaders wanted us to hear: that the body of Jesus had been stolen. The truth is that Jesus is alive and that he really did rise from the dead.
Don't fall for the lie! The lies we tell ourselves or the lies we hear from others, even when the lies people are speaking are the kind of things we want to hear. The truth is that Jesus came to set us free from these deceptions and traps. Jesus came to set us free to live life to the full and he is the way, the truth and the life.